The UK’s James Morrison has been somewhat under the musical radar in this X-Gen writer’s world and it was finally time to sit up and take notice. And sit up quite straight may I add, with thanks to Gold Coast HOTA’s wall to wall conference chairs in the newly named Lakeside Room, once-upon-a-time parading as the ‘The Paradise Room’. This intimate venue with fans strapped tight to the seating plan, gave James Morrison newbies the chance to listen to a discography of songs spanning all the way back to his 2006 hit debut album, ironically titled ‘Undiscovered’. The title track of this album and fifth song on Sunday’s set list enabled the audience to loosen up and move their vocal cords by singing along to this R’ n B’ hit. Now we get what all the fuss is about. Here is a cockney voiced English lad, who has honed the high note grooves of the merit list of American STAX sixties artists and filled his songs with catchy 21st century themes. “The music is in my soul” lyric aptly signifies he grew up in Soulsville – a place not bound by geography but of influence.
Morrison tentatively introduced several songs from his new album – ‘You’re Stronger Than You Know’. ‘Feels Like the First Time’ had the boost of his powerful back-up singers to inject the standard soul formula, which then swapped into the Sunday sermon ‘Power’, sustained with Booker T organ lines. The ballad ‘I Still Need you’ was also a beautiful slow dance of organ riffs, followed by ‘Cross the Line’, a number sans guitar, with Morrison singing lyrics of learned mistakes. ‘My Love Goes On’ was the token rock number and the HOTA audience responded, bopping in their steel seats to the punchy harmonics of the mesmerizing singers and four-piece band. Treating the crowd with ‘Glorious’ – a potential singing-in-the-shower hit song, it’s humbling to see this successful singer so gracious with new material. The new songs were definitely loved by the GC fans, but it swelled more when Morrison and his husky voice belted out Joe Cocker’s ‘A Little Help from my Friends’ – nailing it and owning it with conviction.
An artist who also nailed his time on stage with confidence was musician Hein Cooper, who supported Morrison’s Australian leg of the tour. With his fluent and smooth voice – eerily like Jeff Buckley, Cooper won over the static audience with six of his best including, ‘Hear My Voice’ and the Mick Hucknall toned ‘Rusty’. James Morrison has acknowledged the talents of Cooper before, as a support on his 2016 European tour. Noting the positive audience response to Cooper’s open conversations and singing style, we would love to see him on more Australian stages over the summer festival season, or even better, in similar ‘shut-up-and-listen’ theatre places – where we can hear soulful music and listen to lyrics without the competition of bar service conversations.
Images (C) Simone Gorman-Clark